During its Jan. 26 meeting, the Leander ISD Board of Trustees agenda included:
- Spotlight on Learning: Deer Creek ES
- School Board Recognition Month
- Approving 2023–24 academic calendar, draft of 2024–25
- Discussing recommendations from the Citizens’ Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC)
- Reviewing the Equitable Access goal as part of the Strategic Plan
- Adopting a resolution to use excess tax collection to pay down bond debt early
Spotlight on Learning: Deer Creek ES
Deer Creek ES students did an excellent job sharing how the Universal Design for Learning approach gives them choice in how they demonstrate their learning in class. Go, Colts!
The district celebrated the Trustees for their dedication to LISD and its students as part of School Board Recognition Month.
Following a video of appreciation, Trustees took turns sharing their experiences of visiting campuses around the district and seeing firsthand the amazing things happening in #1LISD.
Board Approves 2023–24 Academic Calendar, Draft of 2024–25
During its consent agenda, Trustees approved the 2023–24 academic calendar, closing out a monthslong process of community feedback and consideration of multiple options.
Key features of the calendar include:
- First day of school is Wednesday, August 16, 2023, the same week as in 2022–23
- Last day of school is Friday, May 24, 2024, keeping it on a date before Memorial Day
- Aligning Spring Break with the Austin Community College break, simplifying schedules for our dual credit students
- Preserves two dedicated teacher workdays incorporated into the schedule before school starts
- Student early release days for teacher work time: Dec. 22, 2023, and May 24, 2024
- Continuous Improvement Conference shifts from October to Nov. 6–7, 2023, aligning with Tuesday student holiday for Election Day.
- Staff development days during the school year will balance new learning with teacher planning and collaboration time:
- Sept. 25, 2023
- Oct. 9, 2023
- Jan. 8, 2024
- Feb. 19, 2024
- March 18, 2024
- April 1, 2024
When constructing the 2023–24 academic calendar, specific focus was placed on the winter break, given the dates of when holidays occur during this timespan. In the approved version of the calendar, the last day of the fall semester would be Friday, Dec. 22, 2023, and students would return for the spring semester Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, with staff returning one day sooner on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024. This version aligns with a feedback-supported guideline of two full weeks for winter break and starting the break on a Monday, resulting in three complete weekends.
To put together the 2023–24 academic calendar, the district conducted community surveys, consulted with principals and held community listening sessions in December.
Citizens’ Facility Advisory Committee Makes Recommendations
After months of work evaluating the district’s facilities, equipment, renovations, technology and security needs, the Citizens’ Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC) put forth recommendations of a May 2023 bond in the range of $563.5–601 million, a range of amounts below the threshold of needing to raise the tax rate.
CFAC, a group made up of more than 100 community members when totaling members on the steering committee and the six subcommittees, was tasked with developing a three- to five-year facility plan to meet the needs of our growing school district in conjunction with the work conducted to create the district’s Long-Range Plan.
The recommendations are focused on:
- Renovations and repairs
The presentation (Pages 9–19) has an itemized list of projects. Highlights from the CFAC recommendation include:
- Modernization and/or repairs at 4 high schools
- New facilities for 18+ Transition Services and Early College HS; design for School of Choice facility
- Turf for baseball and softball at all high schools, excluding Glenn HS, which was built with turf fields
- Modernization and/or repairs at 3 middle schools
- Turf on competition fields at Canyon Ridge MS and Running Brushy MS
- Modernization at 2 elementary schools
- New facilities for Elementary School 31 & 32
- Series of improvements to the exterior and interior security layers, aligning with proposed TEA requirements
- Cybersecurity upgrades, including network firewalls, content filters and recovery appliances
- Improvements to infrastructure
- CTE Mobile Maker labs
- Replacing old devices
- Renovating a building on the Grandview Hills ES campus to house a third transportation facility
- New facility for Science Materials Center with a Professional Learning Center
- Canopy LED lighting that stay on all night at all schools
- Vehicle and machinery replacements for Plant Services and Grounds departments
“If the board decides to move forward with a bond measure and it passes, it’s not money in our pocket,” said Trustee Christine Mauer, describing the mechanics of bonds and school finance. “It just gives us the ability to borrow. I think that’s an important thing for the community to understand. It gives us the ability to do business.
“Thank you so much to our CFAC volunteers for all of your hard work,” Mauer added. “Thank you for your leadership in the community and all of your time and effort. I know that this was a daunting task.”
The last day for the Board to call for a May 2023 election is Feb. 17. During the meeting, the Board indicated they would likely schedule a special meeting for Feb. 2 to continue discussion on how to integrate CFAC’s recommendations into the work of the Long-Range Plan.
Strategic Plan Formative Review: Equitable Access
Each month, LISD will present a formative review of one goal within the Strategic Plan and the District Improvement Plan. In this meeting, district administrators presented the Equitable Access goal, to ensure opportunities by eliminating barriers for each and every student.
Three action steps since joining the district in January 2022:
- Worked to build trust and relationships with LISD leaders
- Focused on enhancing ethical and inclusive leadership
- Moved the focus to the equity access data
In digging into the equity access data, campus-level data can be too specific, and at the district level, certain student groups can get lost. As a result, analyzing this data by feeder pattern – a high school and the middle schools, elementary schools and early childhood programs that flow into it – stood out as the best approach.
As the data helps identify potential barriers, the next step is to address and work within our system to eliminate it and provide more opportunities. One example to help illustrate these steps in action was how the district brought foundational high school level courses into the middle school level, opening up their elective options and possibilities going into high school. Another example involved analyzing which courses were required or optional to allow for more flexibility.
Looking forward, Chief of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion DeWayne Street led the efforts to seat a 25-member advisory DEI committee, which began meeting this month.
“I really appreciate the space that you created for that committee,” said Board Vice President Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia, Ph.D. “There are a lot of historically marginalized parents and children, and sometimes they don’t always want to participate because they’re afraid to participate. So in being aware of that, it’s important that we’re creating a space where they can join the conversation without that fear.”
Board Adopts Resolution to Use Excess Tax Collections to Pay Off $30.5 Million of Bond Debt Early
The Board adopted a resolution to use $27 million of excess tax collections from the Interest & Sinking (I&S) tax rate toward the defeasance of existing bonds. A defeasance is the early repayment of debt, which saves interest costs on those outstanding bonds.
The resolution falls in line with LISD’s efforts for the past few years, under the Board’s leadership, to restructure debt away from Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs). That goal – reducing CAB debt to 25 percent by 2025 – remains on track.
“When you look at this in the larger picture of debt for the district, with the total principal and interest of $2.5 billion over the next 30 years, that number assumes we’re not doing anything to pay that off early,” Trustee Sade Fashokun said. “Instead, actions like those tonight and over the past few years show that we, as a Board, are aggressively paying down this debt and saving on interest.”
By targeting Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs) from 2014, the district eliminates $30.5 million in future debt service. It also supports future bond capacity for when the district needs to take on new bonds.